Dirt roads are not trails. Period. By any sane definition of the term, a trail is a path or track and is by its very definition, a narrow space.
It seems so logical, right? Any mountain biker gets it: Single track is a narrow trail. Double track is two narrow trails, as left by the passage of a motorized vehicle over the ground. You know, tracks. Double. Two. Dos. It makes sense to me.
And yet, Land Managing agencies in the Bay Area (as well as others) insist on calling apples oranges. Take this laughable propaganda produced by the City of Walnut Creek in the California Bay Area:
These natural surface roads aren’t even dirt paths or dirt tracks. They’re roads. Designed for and suitable for vehicles used to patrol the areas, constructed with gravel and often graded. ROADS! Not trails!
Somehow these things were defined this way and written into policy at agencies all over.
Because of policies and definitions created by affluent white people, mountain bikers in Walnut Creek should avoid riding single track trails in the Walnut Creek Open Space, and stick to riding the natural surface roads measuring 8′ feet wide or wider.
Oh, and remember, don’t ride it fast. They explain it in the video.
We’ve ridden bikes at Walnut Creek before. I’m happy to say I avoided riding dirt roads in Walnut Creek as much as possible. And I rode the narrow patches of dirt as fast as my legs and the traction of my tires would allow. And it was awesome.
But I digress. Can we just call it what it is? These are service roads. Rich white people in Walnut Creek don’t want “hotshot” or “extreme” mountain bikers on their trails, and for the last two decades this has been their way of throwing mountain bikers a bone. Kind of a “fuck you” with a smile if you will.
Defining trails. But not as Single Track
The East Bay Regional Parks made amendments to their master plan a few years ago in order to accommodate the growing user base of mountain bikers. Since they also defined these natural surface roads as “trails,” they had to actually create a new definition for what single track is, since apparently the term single track wouldn’t do.
In a Narrow Trail Study published in 2011 (just before the amendments to the master plan went into effect) they defined “narrow” trails as six inches up to six feet wide.
WTF? No seriously, take a look.
In the study, they found there was a rather wide variation in the definition of “narrow trail” among the San Francisco Bay Area agencies surveyed. Some Bay Area Park and Open Space managers define narrow trails as four to six feet wide.
UGH. Can we just call a road a road?
The best part is that this is going on all over the US. Take our current residence here in Portland, Oregon. Same shit, different state.
The most famous “trail” in the city, Leif Erikson Drive isn’t an actual trail.
On the Forest Park Conservancy website, they even say it was a road once traveled by automobiles. Now it’s a “wide forest trail.”
No. No. No. It’s a ROAD.
I’m aware that we as mountain bikers have 99 problems and a universal definition of the experience we want as recreational users is the least of them. This all just frustrates the hell out of me, and collectively, we as mountain bikers should be way more pissed off about this crap. If only we had some kind of organization. Maybe a group, some sort of association, a collective of mountain bikers that banded together that could generate enough political power to change or generate new land use policies and how lands are managed.
It could happen. But I’ll be realistic, it probably won’t, since we can’t even agree on tire size, much less wheel sizes.